Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen has been trying to handle the growing firestorm surrounding the future of his job in stride. To that point, he apparently laughed off comments regarding his job security for next season and beyond.
"Ha. Ha. Ha," the Miami manager said Friday. "That’s the last thing going through my mind every day, if I’m going to have a job next year. I’m going to have a job. I don’t know if it’s managing the Marlins, but I will have a job. I don’t know if it’s managing in the big leagues, but I will have a job."
In other words, Guillen is taking the situation as best he can, knowing full well that a name as big as his will be hired very soon. Beyond that, he would be getting paid as a manager for two different teams while doing half the work, so it actually would work out pretty nicely for him.
But along the way, Guillen also said some disparaging remarks regarding owner Jeffrey Loria that could have gotten him into further trouble with the team. Apparently Loria is not happy about these remarks.
On Friday in New York, Guillen told reporters: "If Jeffrey doesn’t think I’m doing the job I should do … it’s not the first time he’s fired a manager," Guillen said. "Look yourself in the mirror and ask why so many (bleeping) managers come through here."
Ironically enough, former Marlins manager and current Atlanta Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez echoed Guillen's sentiments.
Current Braves and former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said: "There's not a manager dead or alive that Jeffrey thinks is good enough. Not Connie Mack, not anyone.
"Stick with someone," Gonzalez added. "Give guys opportunities. But he likes to make changes. As long as he owns the team, he makes the decisions. In his mind, they're the right ones."
Now, we here at Fish Stripes are no fans of Fredi Gonzalez, who has proven to be a not-so-good manager who happens to be on a pretty good team. But then again, Gonzalez and Guillen make points that are very easy to see: Jeffrey Loria cannot settle on a manager. And it is not the performance of the managers (if one could even measure such a thing well) that is forcing Loria's hand, but rather that Loria is too prone to making changes and promoting instability with his managerial staff.
Loria's Tempestuous Record
It does not take long to see to what Gonzalez and Guillen are referring. Loria has a checkered history of poor relationships with managers (some fans would say with "everyone"), particularly on the Marlins. Consider the managers after Jack McKeon's first retirement and the circumstances on which they left the team (not included is McKeon himself, who made a late 2011 showing and retired again).
Joe Girardi: Loria famously had a heated argument with Girardi during a game when Loria was barking at an umpire and Girardi emphatically told him to stop. The whole affair was apparently a tipping point between the strongheaded Loria and the equally strongheaded Girardi, who may have butted heads before over decisions made or not made with the team. Either way, it was angry confrontations that ultimately did in Girardi, and it could have happened even earlier than the end of the season, as Loria supposedly had to be talked out firing him after the game.
Fredi Gonzalez: Gonzalez was the most tenured Marlins manager since Girardi, having been on the Marlins' radar before Girardi was eventually hired. Gonzalez was a polar opposite of Girardi, more of a soft-spoken player's manager than Girardi's hard-nosed style. But ironically, it was conflict with a player that was thought to ultimately bring down Gonzalez, as he butted heads with Hanley Ramirez over incidents including the 2010 Jog-gate situation. But even before Ramirez jogged out a booted popup, Loria had already put Gonzalez in the hot seat by considering firing him after not making the postseason in 2009. About two months into the season, Gonzalez was fired.
Edwin Rodriguez: Rodriguez was even more passive than Gonzalez as a manager, and that may not have been what Loria wanted either. While these two never got into any verbal sparring in public, it was obvious that Rodriguez never had the confidence of the front office and was simply stalling until 2012. In 2011, the Marlins re-signed him to a one-year deal, which was essentially a death sentence given the team's impending 2012 rebrand. Sure enough, one ugly June and many losses later, and Rodriguez resigned in order to avoid being fired.
In each case, Loria was likely unhappy with his manager for one reason or another. In two of those cases, there were reports that he was angry and on the verge of firing those managers. Now with Guillen, Loria may be unhappy again, and when Loria is upset about what a manager says, it seems the next step is to silence that manager.
In the three managers above and Guillen, Loria has run the gamut of types. It does not get much more soft-spoken than Rodriguez, nor does it get more loud-mouthed than Guillen. Gonzalez and Rodriguez were known as player's managers, while Girardi was known as a strict disciplinarian. None pleased Loria enough to stay.
Difficult On the Players
Now, in terms of wins, I do not think it matters much. I am of the camp that believes managers do not contribute that many wins to the cause. But it is difficult to ignore the money that managers do get and believe that teams are not paying fair market value for wins from managers. Guillen, supposedly one of the best in the game, gets paid like a half-win player, and that sounds about right.
Since I cannot deny that a manager does make some impact, I certainly imagine that one of those impacts is the continuity of the clubhouse atmosphere. For the players, I can see how it may be difficult for them to work when their manager is constantly under siege and potentially changing year to year. One need only apply it to their own situation: even if you are a mostly independent worker at your own job, it may be difficult to get work done ever-changing leadership year-to-year. New rules have to established at all times, and the times that your managers do get involved with your work, you need to cater to their demands as they change from one boss to another.
The Marlins are an ever-changing roster as well, but players who stick around for multiple regimes cannot feel comfortable getting to know a manager and building a relationship with him if Loria continues to directly tie team performance to managerial performance.
The irony of all of this is while the Marlins have been in managerial turmoil since McKeon left the first time, the front office has been in relative stability for years. Larry Beinfest has been the most important figure in the front office since arriving with Loria in 2002, and that position has not been close being relinquished until this season. While the Marlins have apparently performed poorly enough to hire and fire multiple managers in the time period, the architects of the teams that are doing the performing have gotten away relatively clean.
This is not to say that Beinfest deserves to be fired, as that is another discussion to be had. But Guillen cannot be considered the only fall guy for a team-wide failure this season. The Marlins have already deemed certain players failures by "firing them" to other teams (Hanley Ramirez, looking at you), and now they seem to be willing to give their manager the same treatment. However, the crew that assembled this team deserves no blame? For the lack of connection Loria seems to have for his managers, he has shown an awful lot of loyalty to his front office, despite their struggles as well.
The point here is that, if Loria wants to "change the culture" of the franchise and make changes that may truly affect this team (only one year after presumably doing so already), maybe he should consider a team-wide upheaval rather than a cosmetic change with a manager. Replacing Ozzie Guillen will likely change nothing for the 2013 Marlins going forward, but Loria will never admit to that. Another managerial firing will just "change for change's sake," but as Fredi Gonzalez mentioned, in Loria's mind, it's the "right move."